If you're into gardening, particularly in northern climates, you likely could learn a lot from Neil Moran and his books: North Country Gardening: Simple Secrets to Successful Northern Gardening (which I think was the first book we bought after moving to the UP in 2004, a big help with our 2005 garden) and North Country Gardening with Wildflowers: A Guide to Growing and Enjoying Native Wildflowers in the Great Lakes Region. If Neil's not the reigning guru of gardening in the north, he should be!
Now, let's meet Neil Moran.
WALT: To kick things off, give us a bit of background on yourself.
NEIL: I'm a horticulturist and freelance writer/copywriter living in Sault Ste. Marie. When not writing, I'm landscaping or tending to my own garden. I also have a grandson that keeps me pretty busy.
WALT: When did you first decide to start writing and what motivated you?
NEIL: I first started writing for publication in my late twenties. I wrote feature articles for Michigan Country Lines and U.P. Horse News, a magazine out of Florence, WI. I also wrote press releases for the Michigan Dept. of Corrections as well as PR for the United Way of Chippewa County. In the late '80s I started writing garden articles for Above the Bridge Magazine, a neat little magazine featuring a lot of U.P. writers. This led to the idea to write a garden book, and in 1995 Avery Color Studios released North Country Gardening: Simple Secrets to Successful Northern Gardening. The book has done pretty well in the northern region and also helped me land a job teaching horticulture in a prison facility, as well as some other opportunities.
WALT: Now, can you give us your 15-second elevator pitch for each of the books you've written?
NEIL: North Country Gardening: Simple Secrets to Successful Northern Gardening is the book for northern gardeners. In this book I give you all the things I've learned to grow everything from carrots to cantaloupe in the north country! Many people have told me that this is the book they turn to for gardening in the north. The folks at Avery Studios told me it would have a long shelf life, and they were right.
North Country Gardening with Wildflowers: A Guide to Growing and Enjoying Native Wildflowers in the Great Lakes Region explains the benefits of incorporating native wildflowers on your property, then gives you the wherewithal to do it. This book is a culmination of my hands-on experience growing native plants from seed in a greenhouse for conservation districts in the UP, as well as my own experience planting native plants on my property.
WALT: How did you decide where and how to publish your books?
NEIL: For my first book I decided to go with a publisher. Avery Color Studios was just one publisher I sent proposals to. Although the profits are low, they do the marketing which is a big savings of time; this was especially true back in 1995 when I was raising kids and didn't have the time to do the promotion.
The second book is self-published. The profits are much better but you have to do your own marketing, which is quite time consuming and can also be expensive.
Conclusion: There isn't much money to be made for authors unless you sell a lot of books. On the other hand, publishing a nonfiction book establishes you as an expert and can lead to other opportunities. This has been very true for me. For me, it has helped me launch a career doing something I love to do: write and garden.
WALT: Looking back on your publishing efforts to date, do you have any advice for others wanting to publish similar books?
NEIL: There are pros and cons to self-publishing. Know upfront what you're getting into. If you decide to self-publish make sure you hire the services of someone who can do the layout, formatting, and professional editing. Five Rainbows Services was a good choice for me, not only for the quality of the work, but the fact that we can communicate easily back and forth to make the necessary changes to the manuscript (and there will be changes!).
WALT: What has been the most challenging aspect of self-publishing?
WALT: How have you marketed your books and which marketing methods have yielded the best results so far?
NEIL: I've been targeting the soil conservation districts throughout the state. I cold-call and email them to see if they want to purchase my books. This has yielded the best results because the type of people they service are the type who would grow native wildflowers on their property. I also carry books with me in my car at all times so I can stop in at bookstores and garden centers and see if they would like to purchase some of them.
WALT: I know you're involved in some local gardening organizations. In what ways has that helped you with your writing and publishing projects?
NEIL: Belonging to local organizations is a real plus. In the case of my second book I was able to get financial support for the project as well as editorial suggestions for the book. Now that the book is available, this same organization is helping me promote it.
WALT: What's next on your writing and publishing agenda?
NEIL: I'm going to continue to write garden articles for three publications, feature articles for a business magazine, and copywriting jobs as they come along (writing web content, brochures, etc.). And of course, I will continue to market my books. I also have an eBook that I continue to try to market to companies as a tips booklet, though I haven't been real successful so far.
WALT: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
NEIL: If you're new to writing, read all you can on the craft of writing as well as on the marketing side of things. There are many ways to market your writing these days for both fiction and nonfiction writers. I think the successful writers will be the ones who write well, have something to say, and find the most creative ways to market their writing.
If you're gardening up north, particularly along the Great Lakes, you really should check out Neil's books, available at Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, and regional bookstores.